Pharma Focus Asia
KP - Sustainable Packaging Solutions

The Rising Importance of Containment and Delivery Systems and Latest Trends in The Space

Journey Hong, General Manager, South Korea, West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.

In this interview with West Korea’s General Manager Journey Hong shares his insights on containment and delivery systems, and trends in advanced biologics therapies — in the context of South Korea. He also discusses the strengths of the South Korean market, and some lessons to learn from organisations in mature markets.

1. What is the role of containment and delivery systems for biologics and injectable therapies? What are some trends in this space?

To properly comprehend the important role that containment and delivery systems play in the context of biologics and injectable therapies globally, it is essential to begin by understanding the dynamics of drug development, commercialization, and utilisation.

In markets across the world, the pandemic in the last few years has drawn significant attention to biologics and biotechnology. Specifically, within the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, there has been a very notable surge in clinical trials, spanning not only the past three years but through the past decade as well. According to Pharma Intelligence1, APAC contributed close to half of the world’s clinical trial activities in 2021 alone, and this figure has only been growing. Notably, this growth is particularly evident in the biopharma sector. As a result, there is also an expansion in the corresponding manufacturing industries.

Intelligence1, APAC contributed close to half of the world’s clinical trial activities in 2021 alone, and this figure has only been growing. Notably, this growth is particularly evident in the biopharma sector. As a result, there is also an expansion in the corresponding manufacturing industries.

The rapid growth of the biopharmaceuticals in APAC can be attributed to several factors — beginning with businesses capitalising on the rising demand for home-based healthcare — a trend further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the enormous rise in cell and gene therapy research and development has spurred another wave of clinical trials.

The growing interest and expansion of biologics and clinical medication research has paved the way for injectable therapies to emerge as one of the fastest growing segments in the global drug industry. This, in turn, fuels demand for innovative packaging and delivery solutions. In accordance with this trend, the market for containment and delivery systems is projected to witness compound annual growth rate of 11.87 per cent 2from this year through to 2031. This is in line with how the biotechnology and biopharma sectors are set to grow with an expected compound annual growth rate of 10.3 per cent3 from 2023 to 2030.

As drug developers across the globe race to bring their products to market and regulators place heightened focus on product quality, the significance of containment and delivery solutions is on the rise.

The implications are two-fold. Firstly, it is imperative for drug developers to carefully select a containment system that ensures the safeguarding of the valuable drug product, thus providing assurance of both low risk and high-quality standards. And for containment and delivery solution providers, this translates to the need for remaining attuned to the latest developments within the drug development domain and innovating their products to cater to the evolving needs of drug developers.

Secondly, in order to ensure both speed to market and adherence to regulatory requirements, drug developers should adopt an open, collaborative approach with containment and delivery solution providers. Discussions concerning packaging decisions should be initiated early within the drug development process between stakeholders. By doing so, the unique needs of a biologic drug and regulatory requirements can be adequately addressed upon the drug’s impending launch.

2. The South Korean government has laid out ambitious plans for the biotechnology sector in Korea. What are the challenges and opportunities for Korean companies following these policies?

In South Korea, the biologics sector makes up the majority of the pharmaceutical market whereas generic medicines, therapies and injectables make up the rest of the market. The government has recognized the strong potential for the industry to boom and has strategically fielded more support to foster the growth of the South Korean biologics and biotechnology  sectors. For example, most recently, the government has announced its ambition to raise the market’s overall production capacity to 100 trillion won and doubling export values by 2030. Following the launch of these favourable policies, there will be innumerable opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to further expand.

These additional investments from the government will also certainly attract more new players to enter the South Korean market, while the current players in the market, homegrown or from abroad, will have a better chance to grow competitively within the APAC region. The boost in investments will also be a gateway to attract fresh talent and an encouraging factor for the current workforce to grow, so we can expect more opportunities within the sector. It will pave the way for upskilling existing talent and allowing South Korean companies to accelerate their growth trajectory for the future.

What these policies also imply, however, is that for many Korean pharmaceutical companies, the ambitious plans launched by the government rely on an increase in customer demands without any compromise in the quality of products. Hence, biopharma companies must rise to the challenge set by the authorities and put in place stringent checks to ensure proper quality control. This will mean pooling more resources into well-backed, innovative research, and consistent development of products. Companies must be prepared to expand and build production pipelines as and when needed to meet expectations and customers’ requirements, while staying ready to pivot their business and logistics strategies if unexpected situations and delays occur. The COVID-19 outbreak we have experienced as an industry over the last few years is one such example.

While South Korean pharmaceutical companies meet these expectations, they must also ensure that the demands are properly fulfilled. An effective organisation must prove themselves capable of producing high quality products in time, managing deliveries, and overcoming supply chain disruptions that may impact patients, regionally and globally. South Korean biopharma companies must be ready to come together to tackle these potential disruptions for their delivery lines to stand out, as the entire sector envisions a positive momentum.

As a result, companies must take time to understand how containment solutions work and apply the right long-term forecasting tools to boost the efficiency of delivering these solutions to patients. With the right technologies, fulfilment pressures can be eased. South Korean businesses should also pool resources to optimise lead times of delivery through understanding how containment solutions match with certain types of drugs, and the regulatory complications that impact fulfilment. Coupling this with the customers’ value proposition, it will definitely become easier for South Korean companies to earn the trust of their customers while delivering the product they need, with the highest quality of services.

Once this is worked out by the organisations, there will be plenty of opportunities to grow for the pharmaceutical companies. Any company that neglects these issues may end up losing the trust of their key partners and patients they serve, or risk losing out on the market share.

3. What are some of the characteristics of South Korea which makes it stand out in the global biopharma market?

Compared to the global biopharma market, South Korea stands out because of the market’s strength in biologics and biosimilars. South Korea has cemented its place as one of the most promising markets where pharmaceutical companies have identified huge investment potentials for research and development processes. Over the years, there has been a growing interest in South Korea’s specialisation in biologics.

Moreover, within the same region, most other markets specialise in generic medicines and biopharmaceuticals. South Korea’s unrelenting focus on producing high quality biologics has allowed the market to rise above the rest. It has also earned the industry trust to innovate and manufacture cutting-edge medicines and therapies. This trust has extended into the global  pharma market as well where South Korean players are well-respected.

On top of these, the substantial policy support from the authorities provides South Korea with another competitive advantage over other markets. The government has chosen the bio-health industry as one of its three future growth engines and has announced a host of policies to foster the industry.

Lastly, alongside the growth of foreign companies entering and setting up their base in South Korea, the country’s own domestic biopharma companies have also been expanding and growing rapidly. Locally developed biosimilars are steadily gaining a larger market share in the Korean pharmaceutical sector. For the South Korea market especially, the Botulinum Neurotoxin A (BoNT-A) market stands out. The market, with its high number of quality manufacturers, can produce high quality solutions and injectables for BoNT-A that are competitive in price, for a growing pool of regional audiences.

4. What are some key lessons South Korean biotech businesses can learn from the global leaders of the biotech industry?

Industry leaders in markets such as the USA and China are great examples to adapt and learn from.

Despite the different characteristics of these markets, the speed and flexibility to embrace industry trends and changing business models is very impressive and a great contributor to their success. As more treatments are developed and society’s needs evolve, global biotech leaders need to quickly adapt and understand patient needs to develop the right solutions. The pandemic served as a strong learning experience when most of the big players quickly pivoted their strategies to innovate and cater to the market needs. Some of these strategies may include directing strong investments to hire the right talent and workforce, or to expand production spaces, and biopharma companies need to have the agility and flexibility

Being open to collaboration and partnerships is also another key to success. The biotech world no longer exists in a silo, and strong partnerships and collaborations across markets can help drive innovation and development beyond borders. With the proliferation of data analytics and communication tools, it is now easier to work across the world with other leaders in the industry, sharing skills, knowledge, and ideas.

From other markets, we also observe that sharing close partnerships with regulators and policy makers helps biotech businesses to find success in their markets as well. For example, in India, regulators are taking initiative to develop closer partnerships with the biologics and biotech sectors through schemes such as the National Biotechnology Development Plan and Biotechnology Industry Partnership Programme.

As the quality standards and complexities of bio injectables and treatments increase, it is more important than ever to establish good understanding and relations with regulators, and vice versa. This will help keep a stringent check on quality standards and regulatory compliance to bring forward the right solutions and products with sufficient support. Doing so will also help South Korean companies build trust with their valued stakeholders and lay a strong foundation for long-term, sustainable growth within the market.

Whether it is through relationships and collaborations with overseas partners, observations, or interactions via platforms and trade events, there remain many key lessons for South Korean companies to learn and improve on. As the biotech space continues to grow, homegrown businesses can even emulate what players in mature, established markets have done right and adapt their strategies to the South Korean market, to innovate and overcome any potential challenges.



--Issue 53--

Author Bio

Journey Hong

Appointed as GM in February 2022, Sung-Yong HONG (Journey) holds 28 years of global bio and healthcare management experience such as from Medidata Solutions, Cytiva, and GE Healthcare Life Sciences in ASEAN and Korea. Before joining West, HONG was VP and General Manager of Sales at Medidata as well as the Korea Representative for GE Healthcare Life Sciences/Cytiva. With close to 30 years of bio and healthcare industry experience in sales and management, he is strengthening West’s position in South Korea and driving business growth.

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